Casting my eye along the street here in Amsterdam, and seeing only one parked car for every twenty or thirty houses, I am reminded that cities don’t have a problem with cars. They have a problem with suburbs. The low number of cars in this city is largely because there are fewer suburbs, sending cars in. With that thought in mind, I want to tell those of you who may be in Amsterdam after Velo-City 2017, to get the hell out. It’s not a half day ride to the edge of the city. You’ll be out of town in ten minutes. I think it’s the thing I love most here. I don’t feel as though I’m trapped in a coop, as one can feel, say, in Bondi or Manhattan.
Plans to head down to Nijmegen today were thwarted by news that, before I can go to Colombia shortly, I would need a few jabs, for which I had to make an appointment. With my day shot I kitted up for a heads-down-bum-up ride to Marken, a former sea port now trapped in a lake and kept as a twee spot to take tourists. The ride up there, in my opinion, is the nicest leg stretch in any direction from Amsterdam.
Marking city limits is Cycle You. If there’s a hub there without SON or Rohloff written on it, it’s some newer brand that costs even more. You’re going places now you can’t just wheel your bike back from if something goes wrong, you’re going way the hell out to the polders—though in terms of its distance from the centre, even your furthest point, Marken, would be closer than Ikea to the centre of Sydney.
Long rows of kept cottages with their own jetties give way to long stretches of levee and before you know there’s a clog shop and lost tourists, and you know you’re in Marken. The ride back into the wind gives you plenty of time to assess the hand full of tall buildings sprouting from Amsterdam.
The question to pose to lovers of suburbs is this: would you rather live in a city that doesn’t have traffic and that you can escape in ten minutes, or be trapped by others’ cars and horizons of sprawl with your own little back yard and two trees? I can only speak for myself when I say a quarter acre of nature that I stare at forever is my definition of Hell. I’ve got a thing for open space. Real open space. The kind you find outside of the city. And the more compact the city, the more readily that open space is available to me.
I suppose that since it is being launched in less than 24 hours, I should give a plug for my new book. I’ll be signing copies tomorrow at the Bicycle Architecture Biennale I curated and that is being staged by my CycleSpace partners. You can get a small taste with this preview.